Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hundreds of Afghan translators who risked lives for Brits 'left abandoned to Taliban'

Afghan interpreters who face Taliban death threats for helping British forces are protesting at being made to wait more than a year for promised refuge - after only two were offered aid.

Translators who have sided with coalition troops in Helmand province were told 12 months ago they could receive five-year visas to live here.
And a legal challenge to the limited new offers is due to be heard at London’s High Court this summer.
Campaigners say lives are being put in danger in Afghanistan, where translators and their families face possible retribution from anti-Western militants.
Interpreters, who have proved crucial to local communications, have previously told Metro they and their families have faced death threats from the Taliban since siding with UK forces.
The government signalled last May translators who worked with British forces would be given five-year visas to live here as coalition forces withdraw - but only those employed since the start of 2012.
At least 21 translators working for Britain have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
Mohammed, an interpreter for the British army in Helmand between 2006 and 2009, told Metro he had not left his home in Kabul in months for fear of revenge attacks.
He also decided to keep his seven-year-old daughter home from school after she was handed a letter vowing to kill her ‘infidel’ father.
Another former interpreter, Faisal, told Metro: ‘We interpreters have worked so many years with British troops in Afghanistan in Helmand, which is the most dangerous province in Afghanistan.
‘We risked our lives and have worked with British troops shoulder to shoulder on the frontline and now they are turning back against us.’
Law firm Leigh Day is representing three interpreters legally challenging the proposals, saying they are less generous than that offered to counterparts during the Iraq war.
The Iraq staff were promised indefinite leave to live in Britain or one-off packages of financial aid.
Campaign groups Avaaz, British Future and Refugee Action fear the mooted packages will deny asylum to as many as three-quarters of the  interpreters who helped British troops in Afghanistan.
Government officials insist they have a separate ‘intimidation policy’ scheme to protect current and former staff - include interpreters - who fear for their safety.
The Foreign Office estimates about 600 staff are likely to be offered resettlement in Britain.
And Ministry of Defence data released last night showed two 'locally-engaged civilians' had been granted visas, with applications being processed for another 269 - and 600 in total expected.
The figures came to light following a written Parliamentary question from Conservative Defence Select Committee chairman Rory Stewart.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman told Metro: ‘We cannot predict accurately how long the processing of the first cases for relocation will take.
‘Realistically, it is unlikely that the first relocating Afghan former staff will arrive in UK with their families before the middle of this year.’

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